Wrestling With God

Wrestling With God

Genesis 32:24-26: “And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him
until the breaking of the day … then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is
breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.'”

Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel at Peniel is, to me, a picture of
what he had been doing all his life — wrestling with his conscience, with
God, and with the world around him. It started when he was born, when, as he
was coming from the womb he laid hold of his twin brother’s heel, a portent of
his coming life and character. Later on in life he also laid hold of his
brother’s birthright and his blessing. He was constantly trying to “supplant”
reality, to mold and conform it to his own will and desire, and he was often
successful, getting what he wanted.

But as he grew older he became less and less satisfied with what he was —
Jacob. The name means supplanter, deceiver. In the context of the story
about wrestling with the angel, Jacob was preparing to meet his brother Esau,
whom he had “ripped off” in the past. He was being faced with the
consequences of his character, which served to reinforce the knowledge that he
was not the man that he wanted to be, not the man that he should be.

Jacob’s experience with the angel, who represented God more fully than
most angelic visitations, further reinforced his self-awareness to the point
of personal crisis. “What is your name?”, the angel asked, giving Jacob a
chance to honestly face what he was like and confess it verbally, both to the
angel (and therefore also God) and to himself, which was even more important.

Jacob had become serious enough, desperate enough about his need for
change that when he wrestled the angel he refused to let go until he had
received what he needed. “I will not let go, unless you bless me.”

But sometimes we can’t change until we understand not only our need for
change, but also why we need to change. Therefore, he was led by the angel
(God) to the confession, “I am Jacob.” I am a supplanter, deceiving myself
and those around me. This is what I am, and I need the blessing of an inward
change. And I am serious enough, desperate enough for such a change, that I
am going to hang on to you, God, whether it takes all night or the rest of my
life. I recognize that you can help, and I refuse to give up seeking until I
have received what I need.

And the angel at THAT point renamed Jacob, signifying that God had granted
the change, the blessing. Jacob was renamed “Israel,” one who has struggled
with God and won.

God desires to make us all winners with Him. But often elements in our
lives and our characters hold us back from receiving the victory. We may need
to face up to these things, see them for what they are, confess them to
ourselves and to God, and decisively renounce them. As with Jacob, sometimes
it takes a crisis in our lives to bring us to the point of honesty with
ourselves and with God. We make excuses for ourselves, we rationalize and
play mind games to reduce the seriousness of our need, until a set of
circumstances might come along that strips it all away and forces us to see
the truth.

And just as Jacob, we then have a choice: we can face the truth (“This is
what I am.”) and seize the opportunity to wrestle with God for inward change,
or we can give up, turn and walk away, letting go and refusing to struggle
with it any longer. We can then go on with our pattern of rationalization and
playing games with our minds. And we can also therefore fail to reach our
full potential as human beings in His image.

May God help us to seize Him, to overcome the struggle, and to refuse to
let go until we are blessed with real and significant change. “To him who
overcomes … I will give to him … a new name…” (Rev. 2:27)

Charles Shelton

Computers for Christ – Chicago